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Posts with tag fantasy

We are all humans

We are all humans
Someone just asked me on Twitter if I thought humans in World of Warcraft are boring. I don't think that at all. I have several reasons for not thinking humans are boring, which I'll lay out for you now:
  1. Humans had/have the most elaborate and interesting political backstory in the game. The conflict between the House of Nobles, the stonemasons and craftsmen, and the House of Wrynn over Stormwind's rebuilding has led to the existence of the Defias Brotherhood, the machinations of the Black Dragonflight and the collapse of Stormwind's outlying territories. Westfall, Darkshire and Redridge are all cut off and fractured, and the aftermath of the war with the Lich King and the Cataclysm only kept the pressure on. Stormwind, as the last remaining human kingdom now that Theramore and Gilneas are effectively gone and Kul Tiras is missing, totters on the edge.
  2. Humans have a great tradition of loss and perseverance. The orcs lost a world, but they're the ones who destroyed it, so it's hard to sympathize with them. The humans rose from scattered refugees on an alien shore to seven mighty kingdoms that ruled much of the Eastern continent, and the loss of those kingdoms after the coming of the Burning Legion and the Scourge is a story of loss piled on loss, heartbreak piled on heartbreak. The refugees from Lordaeron that survived came to Stormwind, and it is that nation which has the lion's share of the burden of rebuilding from this staggering loss.
  3. Every other race in World of Warcraft is just a metaphor for humanity.
I'll expand on point three now.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore

Michael Whelan forges a vision of Deathwing

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If you're a fan of science fiction and fantasy, the name Michael Whelan is likely familiar to you. And even if the name isn't familiar, it's incredibly likely you've picked up a book with Whelan's art on the cover. Michael Whelan has been one of the world's premier fantasy and science fiction cover artists since 1980, with covers that grace the works of Isaac Asimov, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey and many more. In 2009, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in Seattle -- the first living artist to be included in a distinguished list of notable authors.

Whelan was approached for a commissioned piece by Blizzard's Art Director, Jeremy Cranford. The subject? Deathwing. This month's ImagineFX magazine includes a two-page spread of the full painting, but Whelan has also featured a behind-the-scenes glimpse showing the full process behind creating this beautiful work of art on his official website.

It's a fascinating look at what that process of creating a piece of art is actually like. There are a tremendous number of steps involved -- including, in this case, a detailed head study of Deathwing, shown above. The end result is a dramatic, bold, beautiful and very Whelan piece, but the post on Whelan's website includes all of the developmental pieces of art as well.

Head to Whelan's website for the full story behind this gorgeous piece of art and an illustration of the work it takes to go from idea to finished piece. And if you're interested in a truly unique holiday gift, the head study of Deathwing is available for purchase, too.


Filed under: News items, Arts and Crafts

Breakfast Topic: Do you like a little sci-fi in your fantasy?

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There were things about Burning Crusade that I really, really loved. Shattered planets in the sky, and ethereals running around ... it was not the same old fantasy thing. But as we talked to the community, certainly a lot of folks around the office were just like "I don't know man, I just wanna have gnolls and kobolds and run around in a pretty forest -- that's what fantasy is to me." -- Chris Metzen, BlizzCon 2011 Lore and Story Q&A
I have read a metric ton of books in my lifetime -- I've always been a reader. When I was in elementary school, I started out with the classics, books that were on various best of all time lists. When I got to middle school, that's when I really started to home in on sci-fi and fantasy books. There was always something incredibly intriguing about science fiction, and fantasy was just a fantastic romp into things that by all rights simply don't exist and never will.

But my favorite books were the ones that managed to seamlessly blend that fantasy feel with the futuristic feel of science fiction. It's not easy to take those two concepts and mesh them together, but I always loved finding an author who could pull it off. When Blizzard announced The Burning Crusade, I had no idea really what an expansion was -- when I learned it was a continuation of the story, I was delighted. When I discovered it was going to take place on another planet, I was intrigued. And the more I heard about The Burning Crusade, the more excited I was, because it seemed like this fantasy-grounded Warcraft universe I'd so fallen in love with was making that jump to the mesh of sci-fi and fantasy that I adore.

The Burning Crusade still ranks as my favorite expansion largely for that reason. I loved the gorgeously alien world and bizarre technology and how it clicked in with what Warcraft was all about. So I was a little disappointed at Chris Metzen's statement during the Lore and Story Q&A at BlizzCon last year, and I wondered just how many people have a defined version of what fantasy is? What science fiction is? How many love seeing the two collide like I do?

So I'm throwing the question out to you guys: Do you like a little sci-fi in your fantasy? Does the thought of axe-wielding barbarians fighting epic battles in space appeal? Or do you prefer your fantasy and science fiction separate, your Warcraft alien-free?

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

15 Minutes of Fame: (Almost) 15 authors of fame

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

15 Minutes of Fame tries to feature as wide a variety of WoW players as possible. It's not only about being famous in the real world, or being a somebody in the WoW community, or playing WoW despite some remarkable circumstance. 15 Minutes covers all those things, yes ... But we also try to talk with players who are representative of the typical player experience -- ambassadors of the Folks Next Door, if you will.

But no matter how we try to balance things, we always seem to end up back at another interview with an author. Writers who game are a particular bunch. They always have a lot to say about the fantasy genre and the game lore and way the world of Azeroth is unfolding; it makes for a pretty interesting interview. So when we realized that we'd pretty much overshot the bottom of our dance card despite the line of authors winding past the punch bowl and out the door ... Well, we decided it was time to give everyone a full helping of nothing but WoW-playing writers. With our common enjoyment of WoW and the fantasy genre, we figure most readers will find something from these authors they'll want to curl up with on the couch.

Welcome, then, to 15 Minutes of Fame's list of (Almost) 15 WoW-Playing Authors of Fame.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: Sci-fi and fantasy copyeditor Deanna Hoak

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

Deanna Hoak and I have bonded over the Viscous Hammer. Yes, I realize that some of you will find it somewhat predictably amusing that WoW Insider's resident copyeditor should be geeking out over interviewing sci-fi/fantasy copyeditor and WoW player Deanna Hoak -- but there's more to this editor than a mere passion for punctuation. Hoak brings a virtually unique set of experience and sensitivities to the fantastical demands of the novels she edits. In the world of science fiction and fantasy, Hoak edits the big dogs: China Miéville, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, Alan Dean Foster, Cherie Priest, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, R.A. Salvatore ... In fact, Hoak's the only copyeditor ever nominated for a World Fantasy Award for her work.

So yeah, someone who appreciates all the wrongness of WoW's awkwardly named Viscous Hammer (and who knows how to spice up an email exchange with some pretty hot photos of China Miéville at a recent con -- but that's another story) ... To top it all off, along with her two children (her husband's the lone holdout of the family), Hoak's an avid WoW player. Join us after the break for a conversation on World of Warcraft from a SF/F insider's point of view, her recommended reading list for fellow WoW players, and more.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Gender differences in armor

A few readers sent us this post over at Border House that has laid bare (heh) the oft-mentioned differences in armor between the genders in World of Warcraft. While there are some exceptions, in most cases, the exact same set of armor (like this chestplate above) shows up as much more skimpy on female characters than it does on male characters. To the point of absurdity in some places -- even plate leggings, designed to serve as solid protection to the legs, appear to be more like plate thong underwear on the ladies.

As Border House points out, this isn't just WoW's problem. Fantasy and sci-fi in general have been the domain of boys in the past (even if that is changing quickly), and the sexual depictions in the genre have reflected that, for both traditional and financial reasons. As I pointed out the other day, all of Blizzard's luminaries thus far have been men -- is it any surprise that the game is designed from a mostly male perspective? And as BH also says, fortunately, WoW has lots of different gear. If you don't like what your character is wearing, then you can find something else.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Giving up on conquering WoW

Backhand of Justice has an interesting post up about something we've considered for a long time: who will overtake World of Warcraft. Way back before this year started, game developers were challenged to come up with an MMO that could take on WoW's influence and popularity, and while there have certainly been some interesting MMOs announced and released (Star Wars: The Old Republic, which isn't out yet, and Aion, which is, are probably most in the forefront at the moment), it just hasn't happened. WoW is still the juggernaut it's been for almost the full five years, and with Cataclysm coming in 2010, that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon.

So now, two months from the end of 2009, let's just say it: it's not possible. World of Warcraft is an aberration, an extremely well-made game that happened to be in just the right time and place (the casual game explosion, the adoption of MMOs and subscription model gaming, the "mainstreaming" of fantasy/sci-fi geekiness) to become an uber megahit. In short, game developers simply can't recreate WoW, at least not on purpose. As BoJ says, that doesn't mean they can't try -- there are certainly lots of original and interesting games and MMOs out there, and it's completely possible to be an MMO that isn't WoW-sized and be successful. But as for the actual question of beating WoW and its worldwide audience, game developers have pretty much moved on.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard

15 Minutes of Fame: Fantasy author muses on WoW themes

15 Minutes of Fame is WoW.com's look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes -- from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

The World of Warcraft is a season of life. You could approach it strictly as a video game - many do - but as soon as you push beyond the surface, you find yourself building relationships with fellow players, musing over storylines, sharing frustrations and triumphs in a way that punctuates time.

It's no stretch of the imagination, then (or is it, perhaps, entirely about stretching the imagination?) to consider the impact a game such as World of Warcraft might have on the fertile mind of a fantasy writer. So when we spied comments around the internet from Catherynne M. Valente (author of Palimpsest) pointing straight toward gaming, we suspected she'd had her hand in the WoW cookie jar – and we were right. While she's not currently playing WoW (having sworn off its siren call to devote her time to writing), she responded enthusiastically to our interest, producing an interview filled with gaming, WoW, fantasy, science fiction and the timeless themes that tie these worlds together.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Features, Lore, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Christie Golden signing Saturday in Long Island

Warcraft book author Christie Golden (who, you'll probably remember, wrote Arthas, the book our guys loved so much) will be signing copies of that book at a bookstore called the Book Revue in Huntington, NY this Saturday at 7pm. In a quick interview with Newsday there, she also talks about both her background in fantasy and sci-fi (she remembers the days when sci-fi and fantasy were seen as silly diversions rather than premises for multi-million dollar movies and videogames, as do most of us older nerds, probably) and her experience with WoW. She says that having the chance to jump in and virtually visit the actual setting of her books is a real plus when doing research -- if she has a question about the layout of Stormwind, she can go over to that city and check it out herself.

If you're in or near Long Island and are a Christie Golden fan or are looking for something Warcraft-y and fun to do on Saturday, there you go. She's got more information on her blog about the signing (looks like she'll be reading as well). If you do go, let us know how it went.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Events, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Interviews

Former Blizzard devs at Red 5 Studios plan their own MMO

Gamasutra has an excellent interview up with a company called Red 5 Studios. Their CEO, Mark Kern, served as a former team lead on World of Warcraft (though it's been a while -- since a little less than a year after the game's launch), so WoW fans (and Blizzard themselves) are curious about what the studio is up to. Unfortunately, they're staying vague at this point -- while they are definitely working on some kind of fantasy MMO, they're not exactly forthcoming about what it'll be.

They do say what they're not -- "we're not trying to be a sequel to WoW," Kern says. And they don't consider themselves in the same areas as Warhammer Online and Tabula Rasa, two games that showed promise earlier this year but never broke out as their developers expected. Instead, they want to do something different with the MMO idea, but as for specifics, don't hold your breath. They don't have a business model planned out quite yet, and even the game's announcement is "months" off.

So for now, we'll have to wait. It should be interesting to see what, if anything, comes out of the studio -- many people have said that WoW can only be topped by Blizzard themselves, and while having a history at Blizzard doesn't necessarily prepare you for making brilliant games every time (see Hellgate: London, created by former Diablo devs), it would be interesting to see if Kern (who has made his mark on WoW) can help Red 5 get another success together.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Making money, Interviews

All the World's a Stage: So you want to be a Mage

This installment of All the World's a Stage is the sixteenth in a series of roleplaying guides in which we find out all the background information you need to roleplay a particular race or class well, without embarrassing yourself. It's also the first installment with a title that rhymes!

The Mage is the foremost master of magic in the Warcraft universe. Although all the other classes excluding the Warrior and the Rogue use magic of one sort or another with equally wonderful effects, the Mage is the class that's named after the stuff.

But what is magic? What does it feel like to harness it? Does the mage have to do a strange ritual or utter incomprehensible words in an ancient language in order to cast her spells? Other fantasy settings often have one or more of these elements together, but as far as I can tell, Warcraft lacks them.

Arcane magic in the World of Warcraft is an ever-present energy field surrounding the whole world. Mages access it by concentrating in the magic energy within themselves, feeling it rush through their body, and directing it as they please. Those spells that require reagents need an extra focusing item with magical properties of its own in order to bring about the desired effect, but for the most part, fireballs, frostbolts and arcane explosions can be created through the mere act of will on the part of a properly educated mind.

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Filed under: Horde, Alliance, Human, Gnomes, Undead, Trolls, Mage, Analysis / Opinion, Draenei, Blood Elves, The Burning Crusade, Lore, Guides, RP, Classes, Wrath of the Lich King, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

Ask a Lore Nerd: So You Think You Can Dance, Naxxramas edition


Welcome to Ask a Lore Nerd, where each week blogger and columnist Alex Ziebart answers your questions about the lore and history of the World of Warcraft. Ask your questions in the comments section below, and we'll try to answer it in a future edition.

Today's Ask a Lore Nerd is best read while under the influence of obscene amounts of caffeine and sugar, and while listening to catchy J-Pop (or similar music). Tsuguru is preferred, though most anything the Yoshida Brothers have created is acceptable.

Bjara asked...

When you are in the DK starting area, you can have a funny little chat with Noth at the plague cauldron and you find out he really, really hates Heigan from Naxx. Do you know why? I'm still trying to find a way to work "slime and crap filled dance studio" into conversations on a daily basis.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Humor, Wrath of the Lich King, Ask a Lore Nerd

Bringing magic and steel back to Warcraft

Alerinne starts an interesting conversation over on the forums about bringing WoW back into "Medieval Fantasy" -- swords and sorcery instead of alien Draenei and spaceships. Normally, the conversation about MMO genre runs along the lines of too much fantasy, but many players, it seems, would rather be running around with axes and fireballs rather than lasers and robots, especially in a world that is so akin to traditional fantasy (Orcs, Elves, and so on).

To be fair, World of Warcraft has always had its own charms -- Dwarves have always been able to fire guns, something that's not usually in traditional fantasy, and even Goblins with their zeppelins (and Gnomes with their engineering) have always added a little extra flavor to the game that goes beyond purist fantasy. But it's true -- zones like Netherstorm and even Auchindoun go a little overboard for real fantasy fans.

So hopefully, as we hear in the thread, we'll see a little more traditional fantasy setting in Wrath of the Lich King. So far, lots of things we've seen there have had a bit of a Norse trend to them, from the Frozen Tundra to the Vykrul race found in the early zones. But there's more to this expansion that we haven't seen -- Icecrown Citadel is an old-fashioned ice fortress, according to the lore, and with the movement of Dalaran and the rumors of dragons up there, we definitely have a possibility of a return to the magic and steel that made this series so popular in the first place.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions, Lore, Wrath of the Lich King

Shifting Perspectives: The human druids

Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them, brought to you by Dan O'Halloran and David Bowers.

Druids weren't always night elves and tauren, you know. Well, in World of Warcraft they were, but centuries before the first snowflakes started to form in the clouds of Blizzard's creative minds, the authentic human druids actually walked around casting regrowth, shapeshifting, and spamming moonfire.

Or did they? How much of the class that we know and love in WoW is actually based on the real life druids of old? How did the word "druid" come to refer to our fantasy fighters rather than some ancient wise men in robes?

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Filed under: Human, Druid, Lore, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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